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Coronavirus Impacts & the Way Forward for Scotland Pt4: with Lesley Riddoch

Written by on 8th May 2020

This week Val and Marlene talked to Lesley Riddoch as part of our series of interviews about the impacts of the coronavirus crisis and the way ford for Scotland. Lesley describes herself as living in the sticks in North Fife…. but reckons that it’s the right place in these circumstances of lockdown and social distancing. You can listen again here.

Here’s a summary of what we talked about …. it’s a lot!!

  • What led to her film about the 700th Declaration of Arbroath? She started work on it at the beginning of March, began filming mid March, and used wisdom of Facebook to get suggestions for the film and where they could film, and who they could ask to contribute.
  • Scotland’s future may simply be the stuff we’ve already been arguing for…. in other words how best to run a small independent country, knowing how our near neighbours organise themselves. Work conditions are often more spacious in those countries. School classes are smaller, they’ve got spare classrooms, spare classrooms!
  • We need to avoid going back to business as usual. But change needs a bit if a push in that direction. SNP have been in power for a long time and the First Minister’s current performance has pretty well silenced critics. At moment SNP don’t have any incentive to tackle some of of the more difficult things Scotland’s needs tackled. That’s well known as an incumbency effect in times of stress.
  • FM is doing a great job but where is the call for transformation? Prob not going to happen unless there is a confident voice coming through and there isn’t one. We need to be making points that show the way forward even though it won’t happen right now.
  • In many ways we’re still living in a feudal society! High rates of social deprivation and lack of entitlement needs tackled. And yet the head of the Duke of Buccleuch’s estates is on the FM’s advisory panel. Look at who is there and who isn’t. The spectrum of thinking in Scotland isn’t represented. Inherited landed power and wealth joggers are over represented.  
  • Since devolution we haven’t really tackled the top down-ness power inequality and the tendency to centralise in Scotland. That catches you when you get a pandemic. You see what you should have been doing… We don’t have the powerful local government that we need yet countries which do are doing well dealing with coronavirus. In the EU 10000 people is the average in a local council area. In Scotland it’s 170,000. That’s not ‘local’.
  • Looking at the latest polls – where constituency support is up at 54% – do you think these will effect the voting pattern in 2021 Holyrood election?
  • List-only proIndy parties Remember that SNP benefitted from the list system up till 2007. They got noticed and then they took off. Greens are a good alternative because they are a separate party who only stand on the List and they have their own policies separate from SNP. Let’s aim for a straightforward proportional system and become adults in how we negotiate with all other parties.
  • We’re always trying to make the best of a bad job! We need to stop that… we’re always mitigating old ways of working. We go to the scene of an accident and we do what we can but we need to go to the cause of the accident and sort it. …. we’re capable of so much better. Let’s aim for winning a better voting system, not just winning an election. 
  • Does Covid crisis add to some people’s doubts about indpenedence? or perhaps bring them around to supporting an independent Scotland. A rational response would be to see how other small independent countries are dealing very well with the pandemic. But we are still liable to thinking in terms in ‘British exceptionalism’ so maybe that isn’t such an immediate conclusion for some people. And another current is around Brexit. To address and collect the doubts in people’s minds is to argue for independence. We could be articulate a better vision for Scotland.  for example, it was left to people outside SNP / ScotGov to organise something to mark the 31Jan when we left the EU. Same with the Declaration of Arbroath film. These things are not being picking up by the people you might expect to pick them up.
  • What about a possible divergence in strategy between UK nations? The way the Landers in Germany are doing things differently, also France, the Netherlands. 
  • What Nicola is doing is excellent but maybe some people in SNP could be speaking out more publicly about alternative policy directions….. Some of Westminster MPs do that some of those MPs have a different outlook because they entered Westminster as Yes campaigners rather than party people. They were the focus when it was Brexit.  But they are not in charge of Scotland where the focus now is in Edinburgh.

If you want to hear more from Lesley listen to Lesley Riddoch’s Podcast.